Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Mickhail, G, Murphy, B and Farrell, E, The Airlines Efficiency Myth, Proceedings of Integrating Global Organizations: The Role of Performance Measurement Systems, 13-14 July 2006, University of Sienna, Italy. Original conference information available here


One of the emerging issues with the internationalisation of accounting in enabling the globalisation of markets is its implicit role in privileging the destabilising social effect of globalisation, which risks alienating emerging economies and contributing to global instability. Accountants’ preoccupation with measuring the efficient allocation of resources when reporting the financial position, only privileges the inherent ideal of market efficiency as the principal imperative to a firm’s survival in a global market. This focus on free-market efficiency, with its disregard for social and public policy implications, is an unmistakable endorsement of a fundamentalist brand of value free, reckless capitalism that is ultimately detrimental not only to the long-term business interest, but human as well. It seems to me that international accounting should not only play a role in enabling a global free-market, but also safeguard society against the uninhabited pursuit of efficiency - especially when emerging economies are vulnerable to questionable social cost in their efficiency race to join the spoils of a global free-market. This is of concern when a global corporation’s failure, such as: Enron or WorldCom, caused ripples in the economy of an advanced industrialised nation, because a comparable failure in an emerging market may have irreversible societal injustices. Therefore, we would like to argue that there is a need to evaluate the uninhabited pursuit of efficiency to have an informed debate about its merit and effect on firm performance given its far reaching ramifications. This paper examines how efficiency has shaped the global airline industry, over the period from 1995 until 2005 to determine whether a correlation exists between the level of efficiency and airline performance. The findings highlight the imperative for international accounting standards to play a role in addressing the inherent deficiencies of such an obsession with efficiency because of its detrimental effect on the firm, the industry and society in the long term.